Twenty-five years since its final broadcast, the adventures and mishaps of newly-fledged vet – James Herriot – roaming the picturesque Yorkshire Dales still has a firm hold on its fans.
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Steering away from the much-loved series, Simon Stallworthy’s adaptation certainly puts a lot of imagination and creativity in James Herriot’s well-loved books.
Luckily, Stallworthy fully acknowledges the fact that livestock on stage would be a total disaster. But with an engrossing script, featuring hard-working communities and offbeat characters, it still packs a lot of enthusiasm.
Following Herriot’s first two books, If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet, Stallworthy and director Tim Welton manage to strongly show Herriot’s vision of the not-so-pretty realities of nature.
The biggest success is how Welton and set designer Simon Scullion manage to fit the stretching Yorkshire landscapes and various farmhouses all onto one stage. Added with Dan Samson’s sound design, each scene fits together and doesn’t overcomplicate the story.
At just under two and a half hours, the story is mainly built on Harriot – played by Coronation Street’s Oliver Mellor – saving the likes of prized cattle or dealing with skeptical locals. While some scenes have a lot heart, some can seem repetitive rather than pleasant.
But the strong star-studded cast all work together to keep the momentum going. 2point4 Children’s Clare Buckfeild as Harriot’s love interest brings something that’s good-natured, but also flirtatious, to her role. Blue Peter’s Mark Curry and former Steps star Lee Latchford-Evans as the Farnon brothers are fun to watch as they bicker their way through scenes.
Most of the laughs, however, go to Susan Penhaligon as the eccentric and overbearing owner of her cherished pooch, Tricky Woo. Bringing great elegance to the stage, as well as the only real animal in the show, her presence is made more exciting knowing that she’ll be back in Edinburgh performing at The Pleasance Courtyard during the Fringe.